Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Builders, by Daniel Polansky

Tor.com, ISBN 9780765384003, November 2015

I don't dislike talking animal stories. I'm quite fond of many of them. This one isn't being added to that list. I've enjoyed "band of rogues" stories, too. Again, not this one.

A mouse going by the title of "The Captain" is gathering his old gang together after five years. As he collects his comrades in crime, including a rat, a stoat, an owl an opossum, a badger, a mole...oh, who cares. There's no reason to care about any of thee character. They do have a goal, though, and that is overthrowing the toad who is current Lord of the Gardens and the skunk who is his Chancellor (and the real ruler, as well as their real enemy), and seize power themselves, the name of the toad's older brother.

We read endlessly of how unprincipled and lacking in loyalty even to each other the captain's gang is. The skunk and his supporters aren't any better, but we spend less time with them, so there's that advantage.

There is no reason to care what happens to any of the characters. There is no reason to care who wins the power struggle. In an afterword, Polansky describes this as "a one-note joke" that he still find funny. After giving it some thought I've decided that the "joke" is that we keep waiting for at least one character or some potential consequence of who wins matter enough that we care about the outcome.

For me, at least, it never happens. This story was a complete waste of my time, and if I weren't reading for the purposes of Hugo voting, I doubt I would have gotten beyond the first forty or fifty pages, and consequently would not be writing a review of it.

Not recommended.

I received this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.